The Evolution of Whole Building Interval Data

November 9, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

dataThe uses and drivers of whole building interval data are growing and changing – while the data itself is staying much the same, according to D.J. Amis, the Director of Product Marketing for Urjanet.

Amis recently co-authored a blog at the company’s website that highlighted the benefits of interval data that is collected at set time periods. The five advantages offered are operational improvements, the ability to set goals and track progress in achieving them, planning effective energy initiatives, create engagement with building occupants and better manage energy budgets. This approach is particularly promising for organizations that manage multiple buildings.

The key is that modern telecommunications and information technology tools make basic energy usage information far more accessible than it was even a decade ago, Amis told Energy Manager Today. In the past, companies keen to draw actionable intelligence from their buildings would first have to undertake significant capital projects to put the hardware and software assets in place to gather data. They also would have to hire staff or find outside firms capable of analyzing that data.

Today, whole building interval data can be gathered for more easily and analyzed by big data firms who do business in the cloud. The process is far quicker and less expensive than the cumbersome process of just a few years ago. “I would say it is evolving,” Amis said. “It’s largely about availability and ease. The most important point in the last ten years is data’s availability. The data itself is not technically challenging…It’s all about availability.”

The revolution in data presentation is the key. Since reports can be spun up so easily, the data can be configured in a virtually endless number of ways. This is particularly apparent in scenarios in which a number of buildings are being managed. Suppose a large company has manufacturing facilities, retail stores and offices. Each type can be grouped accordingly and their energy use compared. Another option is to group buildings by their age.

Energy managers can run reports that compare performance between “sibling” buildings that should perform at about the same level and use online big data firms to analyze discrepancies. Companies also can do such things as compare performance of a building over time, by day parts or by day of the week. They also can determine if an upgrade or retrofit – a new HVAC system or LED lighting, for instance – has had the promised impact to the bottom line.

Amis said that whole building interval data differs from sub-metering in that a single meter is used. While sub-metering can provide a bit deeper data, whole building interval metering is less expensive to set up and can start generating useful data almost immediately. “Main meters are more available, don’t need capital and you don’t need to plan for equipment,” Amis said.

A very interesting use of whole building interval data is in budgeting. A company can use main meter data collected after a week or so to predict how much the structure’s utility bill should be for that month. Tools are available that adjust for unexpected weather. Historical reports against the same week in previous years also can be used for comparative purposes.

The bottom line is that savvy use of whole building interval data metering can incrementally reduce expenditures. It is unlikely to be a huge amount at once, Amis said, but can cumulatively add up to significant savings.

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